Amoebic infection can be a killer

September 01, 2010

You may have heard in the news this week about a 7-year-old Arlington boy who died because of a rare but almost always fatal amoebic infection. The disease, primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, is caused by a parasite, Naegleria fowleri, which enters through the nose and migrates to the brain. The family had gone swimming in the Paluxy River at Dinosaur Valley State Park last week where the child contracted the infection.

Safety tips:

Ways of reducing the potential for infection include:

  • Avoid swimming or other water activities in fresh water when the water temperature is high and the water volume is low (stagnant water).
  • Don’t swim or play in the water near power plants.
  • Avoid digging or stirring up sediment in shallow, warm fresh water when playing.

Have your child wear a nose clip in fresh water if you are concerned about the possibility of infection.

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, the head of the infectious disease program at Children’s Medical Center, said although the meningoencephalitis the child contracted is quite rare, "there is no effective therapy for Naegleria, so the best way to prevent infection is to avoid contact with the microorganism."

Signs of infection to watch for include:

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Altered mental status
  • Seizures
  • Coma

"If you or your child develops any of these symptoms in the days following outdoor swimming activities, contact your healthcare provider immediately," Dr. Kahn said.

Resources:

Children’s Medical Center, infectious disease, amoebic meningoencephalitis, amoebic infection, Dr. Jeffrey Kahn.

214-456-7000